Saturday, September 28, 2013


Interesting, and in my opinion, accurate evaluation of things in Brazil.
I do disagree though, about protests during the World Cup.  I think that there will be protests.  And I also think that there is a degree of complacency among citizens post protest.  There was a wave of anger and people took to the streets.  And now?  I know change is slow to come, and is difficult, but I think that many people have become jaded (again), and have just resigned themselves to how it is.  Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Walking to work

Almost exactly a year ago, we moved to our new apartment.  I love our new apartment.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1.  It's not infested with termites.
2.  It's close to Dora's school.
3.  It's not molding (yet).
4.  It's spacious.
5.  It's close to everything (bakery, bookstore, grocery, bank, fruit store, ice cream, etcetera)
6.  It's relatively flat on our street.
7.  The neighbors are nice and actually helpful
8.  It's close to 2 of 3 Maple Bear campuses.

So I get to walk to work.  I love walking to work.  Today I saw this:

Yes, it's September 25th, time to start your Christmas shopping!!  Especially for overpriced, kitschy snowmen decor.

And I saw this:

It looks like melons growing on the tree trunk.  Any ideas of what it is?  Cacau?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Recommendation: Simon Reilly Hairdressing

Hi there!  Just got my hair cut by a fabulous stylist, and I highly recommend him!  He works in a salon, but also works from his home in Savassi.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pronunciation guide

I love hearing how Brazilians pronounce foreign words.  The above image is how Brazilians pronounce brand names.  About a year ago I was listening to the radio, and I heard someone talking about the Brazil's "HONKING" in education, as in "o HONKING das escolas Brasileiras é...."  It took me a good 5 minutes to realize that "HONKING" is the Brazilian portuguese pronunciation of ranking. Other good pronunciations:

delivery =  deh leave a ree
Disney = jees knee
iPad = eye pad-gee
Tablet = tah bletch
Trash Pack (a toy my son likes) = trashy packy
rock and roll  = hocking hole

Any others that you like?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fazenda Cachoeira

Matt and I have talked about visiting a coffee farm ever since we moved to Brazil.  We finally had the chance in July!  We decided rather last minute, and because July is a very popular time to vacation, the place that many people had recommended to us wasn't available.  So I had to go with what I could find on Google.  And we got very, very lucky!

Fazenda Cachoeira is in Santo Antonio do Amparo in the south of Minas Gerais.   Google maps says it is only 2 hours away which really means it is 3 hours away.  Getting to Santo Antonio do Amparo was easy, and it's a nice road (because it's a toll road).  It was a little tricky to find the Fazenda once we arrived in Santo Antonio, because there are no signs, and because we live in Brazil.  But since we have now lived in Brazil for 3 years, we my husband has kind of figured out how directions work and how to "feel" your way to the destination.  And once we arrived at the actual Fazenda, there were no clear signs as to where to go, and who was in charge, so we just had to wander around until we found someone who looked like they were in charge.  But once we found that person, we know we'd found a good place.

Mariana told us that the farm had been in her family for 5 generations.  We stayed in the main house, which had been built in 1870 something.  It had been renovated in the 1980s, but still had the Mineiro farmhouse charm.  Wood furniture, big doorways, lace curtains, and old fashioned keys in the bedroom doors.  There was a pool, hammocks, dogs, a game room with foosball and pool, waterfalls, hikes, beautiful views, bonfires at night, and horses.  The kids couldn't get enough of the horses.

We rode them around the farm, to the waterfalls, around the farm again, and the around again.  It was wonderful to watch the kids play outside, to get dirty, to run and laugh and explore.  It was the first time I'd been out of Belo Horizonte since January, so it was so refreshing and restorative.

Matt and I got to take a tour of the farm with Mariana.  It was fascinating to learn that Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, and that Minas Gerais produces about 80% of all arabica coffee. We learned that for optimal production, coffee needs to to be planted at 1000 to 1100 meters above sea level.  We saw the cherries being dried on the terraces, and learned that during drying, the coffee needs to be "raked" 10 times a day to dry uniformly.  And of course, we drank some very delicious coffee.

Matt raking the coffee
I was able to make most of the arrangements via email, but I did have to make a phone call to clarify what meals were included.  It was a little hard to reach them because it was the peak of coffee harvest, so the owners were not only hosting guests, but also managing the harvest.   The packages include all meals and desserts (not drinks), and horse rides.  The owners speak some English, and a little French. Highlights for us were watching the sun set from the top of the coffee farm, walking on the coffee cherries (they make a very nice crunching sound), eating the fried sausage, and hiking to the waterfalls. We had a great time, and would highly recommend a visit to Fazenda Cachoeira.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brazilian Independence Day

Yesterday was Brazilian Independence day.  On September 7, 1822, the Portuguese prince Dom Pedro (who was living in Brazil) cried, "independência ou morte!" and shortly after became the leader of the Brazilian independence movement.  How do Brazilians' celebrate their independence?  From my informal survey, it seems like most other holidays/Sundays:  lunch with family.

We didn't do anything particularly interesting, since we had a birthday party invitation and my husband had to play a concert (state orchestra+national holiday=husband works).  But two things happened on Friday that made me feel like celebrating this wonderful, crazy place that we are calling home.  

My oldest daughter started a new school this year.  It's been a challenging transition, because she actually now has homework and expectations about what she is supposed to learn.  This is good.  One of the expectations is that she has to write 3 short essays every week.  The topics vary, and some of them are as short as 4 sentences.  But it has been a very difficult process to convince her that she can do it.  In fact, just yesterday she spent 3 hours to write about 20 lines.  Arg.  But the good news is that her school had a Honors Assembly on Friday, and she received 2 awards.  The first was because she has the best grades in Math in her class, and we knew that she was going to get this award.  The second award was a surprise to us.  In preparation for 7 do setembro, her class had to write an essay about Brazil and what it meant to them as Brazilians.  My daughter wrote the best essay!  Not only is she NOT a Brazilian, but she has only been speaking Portuguese for 3 years!!  

And secondly, at the end of the assembly, Dora got to hold the flag.  They principal started playing the Brazilian National Anthem, and Beatrice turns to me and says loudly in English, "I LOVE THIS MUSIC!!"  Ah, love my little Brazilian children!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Porta dos Fundos in the New York Times

Opened up the NYTimes webpage today, and found the article on Brazil's most popular YouTube channel:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Caixa d'agua?

Today there is a water "outage" in 350 neighborhoods in Belo Horizonte.  COPASA (the water company) is supposedly doing some work on a water plant to help increase with production.  The interruption in service was supposed to begin at midnight last night, and the water will be back before dawn tomorrow morning.  I just happened to see this because a Brazilian friend posted a notice on Facebook.  I wasn't sure at first about it (you know, some of those crazy Facebook/Twitter "news" reports).  But once I confirmed, I felt it my duty to spread the word.  I felt a little alarmed that so little was being done to notify the 2 million residents that they would be without water for more than 24 hours.  NO WATER!  I posted it on Facebook, and told our sindica (building superintendent).  Again, I was surprised by her blasé response.  She said she might post a notice in the building, but when I saw her later she said she didn't think that it would really affect us, because we only have 20 people in our building, and the caixa d'agua (water tank) should last the whole day.  

And this got me thinking about the caixa d'agua.  Practically every apartment building and house in Belo Horizonte has a caixa d'agua.  Why is this?  At first, I thought that these large water containers were the actual source of water for the residents, that is, a truck delivered water to the caixa d'agua.  But how the heck does the water get from the truck to the top of the apartment?  This is the faulty logic (stupidity) of the fresh-off-the-boat expat.  But after 3 years of living here, I still haven't figured out why they exist in such abundance here.  A brief google search didn't help much.  But here are my guesses:

1.  There used to be more frequent water outages.  The caixa d'agua is a remnant from these days when the water would randomly go out, and was insurance that there would always be a supply of water.

2.  Gravity.  Perhaps there isn't enough water pressure coming from water from the street, so a roof top container will provide the gravity needed to pump that water through the pipes.  

3.  Dengue.  Brazil really doesn't want to eradicate Dengue, and is committed to mosquito breeding.  

Ok, that last theory is a little crazy.  But most of what I found online were yahoo answers to questions like, "Why do I have to keep my caixa d'agua covered?"  and "why is it important to clean my caixa d'agua?"  Ewww.  

That being said, I have experienced the cleaning of the caixa two times (last crappy apartment, and current nice apartment).  We were without water for about an hour.  That was more hardship than was experienced today.  As far as I could tell, there was water all day, everywhere I went!  The pool at the club!  Nice long showers for all in our apartment today!  Our neighbors hosing down the sidewalks in front of their apartments!  The neighbor downstairs that ignores the rules and washes his car in the garage!

Anyone out there care to educate me about the caixa d'agua?